Over half of 9-16 year olds now own a smartphone, with many of them using it to access the internet on a regular basis, according to Young Minds. Using the internet and social media have become an integral part of life for all of us, not just young people.
Rather than preventing them from exploring the internet, we need to talk about building your child’s digital resilience. It’s important to teach children how to approach the internet in a healthy way that will benefit them and facilitate learning and interaction without causing mental or emotional health problems.
The government and charities, like Young Minds, are working to make the internet a safe place for us and our children, but what can you do as a parent to help your child protect themselves online? This is where digital resilience comes into play, helping your children cope in the digital world.
What is digital resilience?
Describing someone as resilient means they have the ability to bounce back and recover from any adversity they may face. Digital resilience translates to having this same ability to cope with pitfalls and problems that we may come up against online.
“Resilient children are more likely to enjoy the benefits of the internet and less likely to experience harm,” CEO of Parent Zone Vicki Shotbolt explains. “Digital resilience is built by ‘good-enough parenting’ and by children having digital skills and a positive attitude to technology.”
Shobolt goes onto describe ‘good-enough parenting’ as a parenting style that is consistent and responsive. You’re doing your best, but acknowledge that perfect parenting isn’t an achievable or realistic goal.
“A ‘good-enough parent’ equips their child with the skills needed to be able to take care of themselves,” says Shobolt. “It’s about adapting what you already do to keep them safe and flourishing offline to work in the online world.”
Your responsibility as a parent
Shobolt likens teaching online resilience to teaching your child how to cross the road. You wouldn’t wait for the roads to made 100% safe before allowing your children to cross them. A similar rule can be applied to the internet: it’s never going to risk-free, it’s all about teaching awareness and resilience.
Implementing limits and boundaries can be challenging for parents and children. It’s important that your child understands why the restrictions are in place, otherwise they may interpret the limitation as a punishment. Internet Matters have created some fantastic resources with the help of Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos to guide parents in teaching children how to stay stay online.
Internet Matters divide your role as a parent into five points:
Manage time online
We all know what it’s like to spend a lot of time glued to our phone or computer. Children can find it equally addictive, especially if they’re playing a fun game online. Create a good balance between online and offline and explain the benefits of both.
Turn on the parental safety settings
Websites and broadband providers often have parental and privacy settings to help parents keep children safe online.
Youtube and other websites offer kid-friendly sign-ins and search options. This will give children the chance to explore online, using popular sites, but still remain in the safe space.
Be involved and interested
Try to resist treating the internet as a solo activity and get involved with what they’re up to online. Play games and look into other fun ways to interact with online content.
Have conversations about what’s going on online, be aware of what’re they’re doing online, discuss the apps they’re using etc.
Be a good digital citizen
Discuss with your child the importance of being a ‘good digital citizen’ and about how they shouldn’t act differently online to how they behave offline. Remind them just because they’re online, it doesn’t mean they’re invisible, so it is important to be kind online too.
Remind them that they can always talk to an adult about anything they’re seen or are concerned about online. There will be things that you’re unprepared for, and talking things through is the best way to deal with problems.
To download the full PDF guide, click here.